The start of Christmastime in New Haven is getting a makeover – a new festival called New Haven’s Holiday Homecoming.
Building on last year’s purchase and installation of new holiday lights for downtown, the first-time celebration will take place 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Black Friday.
Featured will be traditional spectacles, contests, business open houses, giveaways and free food from several New Haven restaurants and vendors.
“We thought there are so many families coming in for the holiday and not so much going on Black Friday evening that we could offer something fun for people to do,” said Steve McMichael, the city’s mayor-elect, who helped organize the festival.
The event will feature Santa Claus riding on a lighted fire truck and turning on the holiday lights along Broadway at 6 p.m.
The celebration also will include a gingerbread display and competition 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Impact Community Church, 909 Main Street.
A storefront window walk contest along Broadway and a Memory Tree in Schnelker Park are other features.
More than 450 luminaries made by New Haven elementary students will be placed along Broadway, and the Hometown Hoopers will perform with lighted hula hoops to holiday music on Broadway at 6 p.m.
Free horse and carriage rides will be offered from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on two routes leaving from the park and 511 Broadway.
Those who attend can participate in an Ugliest Holiday Sweater Contest and high school boys will compete to build the biggest Santa belly (on themselves, with pillows) while girls use makeup to try to create the best elf face.